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21st Oct 2018

Ukrainian spy-master invites MEPs to dinner

  • The Maison du Cygne is one of the most luxurious restaurants in Brussels (Photo: Frankz)

The head of the Ukrainian secret service, Valeriy Khoroshkovsky, is hosting a luxurious dinner for MEPs in Brussels as the country's new administration continues its campaign to legitimise itself in the eyes of the EU.

At a time of national austerity under IMF bail-out conditions, Kiev is sparing no expense on its public relations effort by inviting around 15 euro-deputies to dinner on Tuesday (9 November) in the wood-panelled Maison du Cygne restaurant on the historic Grand Place in the EU capital.

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"Mr Koroshkovsky, who will be in Brussels for meetings at NATO, will be pleased to have an exchange of views with guests on reforms of the security sector of Ukraine in the context of the [sic] European integration as well as on recent developments in Ukraine after the local elections," the invitation, sent out by the Brussels-based PR firm Glocal Communications, says.

EUobserver understands that British centre-right MEP Charles Tannock and Polish right-wing member Michal Kaminski - who hail from parties hostile to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych - have agreed to go. Romanian centre-left deputy Adrian Severin, from the Yanukovych-friendly Socialist & Democrats group in the European Parliament, was also invited but could not attend.

Mr Khoroshkovsky is one of the big men in the Yanukovych administration. On top of his duties as the chief of the Sluzhba Bezpeky Ukrayiny (SBU), the 41-year-old also controls the country's largest media company, the U.A. Inter Media Group, and sits on the High Council of Justice, the panel responsible for hiring and firing Ukraine's judges.

The SBU has in recent months taken centre stage in complaints against Mr Yanukovych's alleged abuses of power.

SBU officers have interrogated members of leading NGOs and government-critical journalists. A number of civil society leaders and some EU diplomats posted to the EU embassy in Kiev believe their phones and apartments are bugged. In June, the U.A. Inter Media Group almost forced off the air its competitors, the independent TV stations TV5 and TVi. "This kind of thing didn't happen in [former Ukrainian president] Yushchenko's time. But now it is so," Yevghen Bystrytsky, the Kiev director of the George-Soros-sponsored International Renaissance Foundation told this website in September.

The Yanukovych-critical German centre-right MEP, Elmar Brok, who met Mr Khoroshkovsky at the EU mission in Ukraine on Monday, says the spy chief has a modern style.

"He's not the bully-boy type that you associate with the old nomenklatura. He's a professional lawyer. He's smart. He's nice in his attitude. He says things like: 'I understand. I see your problem. I will take this into consideration'," Mr Brok told EUobserver.

The German deputy was unimpressed with Mr Khoroshkovsky's answers on substance, however. Asked on several occasions about the conflict of interest inherent in his multiple roles, the Ukrainain said that his job is to make sure that judges are not corrupt.

"You can favour a presidential system or a parliamentary system of power. But he doesn't seem to understand that threatening the independence of the judiciary is one of biggest mistakes you can make when you are trying to build a new state," Mr Brok said. "He doesn't seem to understand what are the proper limits of his mandate."

Commenting on the Maison du Cygne event, the German MEP noted that the heads of the British security services, MI5 and MI6, would never be allowed to take part in such a meeting: "It shows that he plays a much more political role than simply being the head of the secret service. Normally, the head of the secret service is a civil servant. But he is a type of politician."

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